Tuesday, January 29, 2008

where's the beef?

Enjoy that burger. Meat will become more rare, and I don't mean how it's cooked. Why? As Mark Bittman writes, "Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally, like oil, meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible."

The toll includes rivers of pigshit in places like Iowa and North Carolina that make the neighbors (human, plant, animal) sick and contaminate the water, and the destruction of rain forests in the Amazon and Central America to accommodate the burger-on-the-hoof herd also known as cattle.

It's also bad from a climate change perspective, destroying carbon-absorbing forests and increasing the numbers of methane-belching animals. And you have to ship that meat from the former rain forest to the consumers in the US and elsewhere, using a lot of carbon fuels. And you have to plant a lot of grain for those animals, grain that competes for land with other human foods AND with the land needed to plant grain and sugar for (grossly inefficient, but that's another story) biofuels that are supposed to help somehow on climate change.

As Bittman writes, meat won't disappear from our tables. But you may not be eating as many 20-ounce steaks at the local bistro as before.



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